Tips on buying the right bicycle

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Do you ever look back at photos from your childhood? Chances are that if you do, you just might see a small bike under you and a big smile on your face.

I remember watching my oldest brother riding around on his brand new mountain bike, five inches of suspension front and back. A true trail machine!

Sometimes, in order to understand where we are, it helps to look at the past and see where we came from.

In this present day, the bike industry has adapted to fit the needs of an ever-changing society.

Professional sports have continued to grow and year after year, athletes are pushing the limits of what we thought was possible.

No sport has benefited from this more than cycling.

For those of us who will never stand atop a podium with a medal around our neck, modern bicycles and advances in cycling affect the way we ride today. Bicycle companies are constantly finding new ways to not only build better bikes, but to build bikes that fill every different need. There is now a bicycle for every rider from the small child that is rolling around the driveway on their walk-a-bike, to the rider who wants something comfortable for a Sunday afternoon ride on some back country roads, to the competitive rider who craves a performance road or mountain bike.

Asking yourself the right questions before stepping into a bicycle shop will make it much easier to invest in a new bicycle that will again bring that big smile to your face.

Here’s the first question: What kind of riding do you plan to use the bike for?

Second: What is the budget that you have set aside for this adventure?

If you have the answers, experienced retailers can guide you to the correct models that you should consider.

After you have seen the models that fit your intended use and ride style, the seller will be able to find you the correct size to fit you.

When you have found the correct size, get on the bike. Take it for a test ride even. Trust your body to tell you whether or not a bike will work for you. Try multiple bikes in order to find the one that you will enjoy riding every day.

Once you’ve settled on the correct size and style of a bicycle, you’ll be more comfortable, efficient, and safer while out on the roads or trails.

“Cost” can be a scary word, but it doesn’t need to be. When shopping for a bicycle you aren’t just spending money; you are investing in your health, fitness, and enjoyment.

As you look down the row of bicycles, you may notice that the price will change when going from one model to another. Frame materials (e.g., aluminum, carbon, steel), different components (e.g., shifters, derailleurs), or even different styles of bicycles can change the price.

Learning about these different products and the different purposes they have been built for will help you make a wise choice. For example, the shifters and wheels on an entry level mountain bike may not hold up to the abuse and power that competitive cross country racers will need in their bicycles, but it will likely be exactly what a younger, less aggressive rider needs around town and on the occasional trail ride around the lake.

If you are new to the sport of cycling, but think it will become a life-long hobby, you don’t always need to get the most expensive bike in the line. Don’t sell yourself short on what you are capable of, but investing in a more entry level bicycle for the first time can be a good way to learn the sport and figure out what level of bike you would like to move up into. You should always get a bike that is built for how you intend to use it, but you should never feel pressured to spend more than you are comfortable spending, especially if you are a new rider and haven’t had a chance to learn the sport.

You have found the right bicycle, now you need to be prepared for the road or trail ahead of you. An experienced retailer will guide you through the tools you will need to make it back safely from every ride (preferably without having to walk your bike home).

The first thing I make sure to ask every customer that leaves our store with a bike is, “Do you have a helmet?”

Helmets save lives — yours!

A pump for your tires, a tube repair kit and flashing lights are tools that have been made to give you a safer and more enjoyable experience.

Being fit to the bike you have chosen can bring your riding experience to a whole new level. Your retailer has guided you to the correct model and sized you for it. That is the best time to talk to an educated and experienced bicycle fitter (many bicycle shops have a fitter that they will refer you to). Bike fitting is a science that utilizes modern tools and equipment in order to customize a bike to its rider. Proper bicycle fitting will not only increase your long term health and comfort, it can also help make you stronger and more efficient as you spend time riding.

Never be afraid to ask questions when buying a bicycle, even if coming back to a retailer after thinking over a purchase to ask more questions. Retailers know that not everyone has a complete understanding of bicycles and how they work. Those of us who work in the industry are happy to help you.

Once you have found the right bicycle, helmet, and any other items you were looking for you only have one job left to do. Go outside and make some wind!

Kevin Thonney is a Mechanic/Sales Associate at Bicycle Barn and a member of the board of the Wheatland Wheelers Bicycle Club. Contact him at kevin@bicyclebarn.com.

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